As part of Caritas Australia’s 2019 Project Compassion campaign, The Record will publish real life stories from successful projects undertaken by the international aid agency.
Life in her village in northwestern Zimbabwe was not easy for 12-year-old Thandolwayo.
Every morning she would walk seven kilometres and risk being attacked by crocodiles as she collected clean water for her grandparents and family. Exhausted from hours fetching and carrying water, she would then start her day at school.
Thandolwayo’s hope to be a nurse seemed almost impossible to realise, until Caritas Hwange helped the village install a solar-powered water system. It is bringing new opportunities, new hope – and a chance for Thandolwayo to concentrate on her education and her future.
Thandolwayo lives with her grandparents and other members of her family in a village of 500 people in the Hwange district of northwestern Zimbabwe.
Her father left several years ago and her mother lives in a town 90km away where she works as a casual labourer.
Her older sister also moved away to attend secondary school. Thandolwayo attends the local school, which has only 35 students and two teachers.
Thandolwayo’s grandparents make a living by selling pearl millet bran to anglers and farmers for animal feed. They also sell chickens, but the income it brings is not enough to support the family.
About 72 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population is living below the poverty line. Thandolwayo’s community is also plagued by ongoing droughts, food and water scarcity and poor sanitation.
Every morning before school, Thandolwayo used to walk 3.5km with the other women and girls to the Gwayi River and back again.
Carrying a five-litre container, she would traverse a rocky, mountainous path to collect water for her family and her teacher.
“Then when we got to the river, we were afraid of being attacked by crocodiles,” Thandolwayo says.
“I went to school tired after collecting water and my performance at school was low.”
In 2017, Caritas Australia collaborated with Caritas Hwange to help the community to install two solar-powered pumps to draw the water up from the river, as well as two 10,000-litre storage tanks.
Community participation in the project was overwhelming. Both men and women helped by digging and carrying stones, and water tanks.
Thandolwayo’s grandmother also joined other villagers in participating in Caritas assisted training in health and hygiene skills.
Thanks to Caritas’ support, water is now on tap in the village – benefitting the whole community.
“Life has really changed as a result of the tap because now I can bathe every day,” Thandolwayo says.
“We can wash our plates and clothes regularly. I now go to school feeling fresh. The distance to collect water for the family has been drastically reduced. We now drink clean, safe water and diseases are no longer affecting us.
“Hope is important because it makes me work harder so that I achieve what I want to be when I grow up. I want to live a good life in the future.”
Village health workers say that water-borne diseases have halved, and people in the village are living longer.
There is also a new feeling of hope and positive change in the village. The plentiful water supply has triggered a series of new ventures. Water is being used to mould bricks for building houses and to pound maize to sell.
Plans are underway to establish a community garden and a fishpond, to generate an income to assist with school fees.
“I’m so proud that tap water has been brought to this community during my lifetime,” says Regina, Thandolwayo’s grandmother.
“We now have enough time and energy to do other work to make life better. Thandolwayo can eat three meals a day and she can concentrate much better at school. We hope she will excel and get a good job and take care of her family.
“Thank you very much for saving our lives because water is life.”
Marvellous, Thandolwayo’s teacher, says the 12-year-old is one of the school’s most hardworking and intelligent students and foresees a bright future for her.
“We hope the children’s studies will improve and that they’ll achieve their goals. And we hope that more qualified teachers will be willing to teach at the school,” Marvellous says.
There are also hopes that the new, reliable water source will draw more families back to the village. School attendance has already increased and there are plans for a secondary school.
Super Dube, Caritas Hwange’s Diocesan Coordinator, says the dignity of the community has been restored.
“People no longer have to worry about collecting a basic thing like water which is a human right. The project has certainly brought hope to the village,” he says.
Your donation to Caritas can help to transform the lives of children like Thandolwayo.